Culture Shock: The Exploitation of J-1 Cultural Exchange Workers

"They come to experience all America has to offer.  They hope to pay their way by working a summer job as they experience a new culture and learn English.  They work in our hotels, restaurants, fast-food chains and amusement parks.  They work for companies with names synonymous with the United States: McDonald’s, Disney, Hilton and more.  They’re J-1 guest workers. ... This report is based on hundreds of interviews with J-1 Summer Work Travel participants and interns and trainees working across the South, primarily in the hospitality industry.  These interviews revealed that regardless of the worker’s country of origin or whether they participated in the Summer Work Travel Program or the Trainee and Intern Program, the experience is the same.  The undeniable conclusion is that these J-1 programs, an initiative once envisioned as a tool of diplomacy, has become little more than a source of cheap labor for employers." - Meredith B. Stewart, SPLC, Feb. 2014.